Gene Collier: Investigation of Peyton Manning won't detract from football fever
January 28, 2016 12:00 AM
Chris Carlson/Associated Press
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning holds his game ball during the trophy presentation after their AFC championship win against New England.
By Gene Collier / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
With the announced closing of Al Jazeera’s American operation and the official classification of its December documentary on sports doping as “complete garbage” by iconic NFL quarterback and emergency media critic Peyton Manning, most everyone expected the matter would vanish from the national radar well before Manning wound up whipping the Denver Broncos into Super Bowl 50.
Yet there it remains, stuck like some bleeding bovine right in the middle of Manning’s tentatively labeled “last rodeo” — Al Jazeera’s seriously flawed journalistic investigation, now morphed into a series of officious investigations into the same alleged behaviors, this time by the NFL, Major League Baseball and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
A month ago, this story was essentially a matter of identifying the litigants. Two of the baseball players fingered in the documentary, Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard and Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman, were suing. Steelers linebacker James Harrison was not, his people having done the necessary cost-benefit analysis on defamation cases, others were keeping their options open, and Manning, in a conversation with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, listed himself as probable.
Guess that will be a game-time decision.
This week, though they’ve been dodgy on the matter of who is working with whom, the investigative arms of both leagues and the USADA are describing thorough inquiries into Manning’s “complete garbage.”
Presumably, one entity or all three could return an equivalency verdict of “incomplete garbage,” “not really garbage at all in the classic sense,” or at the other extreme, “hey, look, about that legacy …”
Still, nobody, least of all Manning, should fret about this over the next 10 days, as we’ll all get busily back to legacy-building next week in California, the stage for Peyton’s final roundup against the Carolina Panthers.
No result of anybody’s investigation, least of all the NFL’s, is going to disrupt the corporate behemoth’s landmark showcase, which is why you keep seeing words like “comprehensive” and “deliberate” and “all-encompassing” associated with the investigation(s) in progress, all terms translating literally to “slow.”
Manning could be well into retirement before any findings are released, at which time the practicality of any discipline would be moot. I don’t foresee a tersely worded communication from Roger Goodell turning up in Manning’s mailbox this summer, reading anything like:
Dear Mr. Manning, our investigation into alleged illegal drug use by certain named players implicated in an Al Jazeera documentary last December has concluded that you received and used human growth hormone (HGH), Delta 2 and other substances banned by the NFL. As a result, you are suspended from golf for the next three weekends. Of course you may appeal this decision.
Hope all’s well,
If it wasn’t perfectly obvious that the league was in no hurry, the NFL let it be known the other day that it had “requested an interview,” with the quarterback, but that it wouldn’t happen until after the season.
You know that’s a shame because he’s going to be available just about every day in San Francisco answering all kinds of ridiculous questions. I’m sure at the media day circus they could get some joker in a SpongeBob SquarePants outfit to ask No. 18 about Charlie Sly, himself a cartoon character, unless you’ve got a better way to describe the Al Jazeera informant who recanted his own story and allegations aboard the very documentary that they launched.
Watching the documentary, which Al Jazeera called “The Dark Side: Secrets of the Sports Dopers,” it’s plain even to the most cynical that Sly, a Texas pharmacist who once worked at an Indiana clinic he says supplied Manning with HGH by mailing it to his wife, slides easy into the gaggle of known cheats and liars the film leans on so heavily.
Its one believable character, Ed Dominguez, a former member of MLB’s Department of Investigations (including that one that brought down Biogenesis and Alex Rodriguez), tells the camera that he would estimate 20 percent of the players on 40-man rosters are still using performance-enhancing drugs.
That’s why it’s not so much the fallout of all this, but rather the politics of all this that’s so fascinating.
Baseball, enjoying a dubious reputation as being tougher on PEDs at the moment than the NFL, has to make a big effort in defense of that image, so big it’ll bring in the USADA, which has a ton of resources and expertise. The Anti-Doping Agency, perhaps weary of sidelining anonymous sprinters and shot-putters all the time, has everything to gain for its street cred if it might get to fry some bigger fish. The NFL, having spent untold millions and more than a year on deflated footballs, knows it can’t ignore any flavor of garbage, even when Manning sweeps it so vituperatively from his doorstep.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @genecollier.
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